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Roxbury man acquitted in 2 killings

Pair slain in '91 on Mission Hill

A Suffolk Superior Court jury acquitted a 47-year-old Roxbury man yesterday of the 1991 stabbing deaths of his girlfriend and her companion. It was another loss in a high-profile case for prosecutors.

Reggie Knight had been charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the slayings of Michelle Paul, 24, and Henry Cowart, 50, outside a Mission Hill housing development early on Dec. 15, 1991.

The loss for Suffolk prosecutors followed a cold-case investigation that led to Knight's indictment in 2003. This year, the district attorney's office has had eight homicide cases end in acquittal and 25 cases result in convictions.

Testimony began July 16 and ended Friday. Jurors began deliberating Friday.

"Although this is not the desired result, we respect the jury's verdict in this very difficult case," Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said in a statement. "It was especially complex due to the age of the case."

Prosecutors sought to prove that the two victims had been at the development before going to a nearby gas station to buy cigarettes. Upon their return, prosecutors alleged, they encountered Knight as he leaned against a brick wall outside of the Ward Street entrance, where they said he stabbed Paul and Cowart before fleeing. Prosecutors contended that Knight was upset that his girlfriend was smoking crack and with other men and that he ambushed them at 5 a.m.

Robert J. Wheeler Jr., a Boston lawyer who represented Knight, praised the jury.

"He was always steadfast in maintaining his innocence," Wheeler said. "In the end, when the government put its best case in, there was insufficient evidence for the jury to convict. It is what it is."

He said Knight remains at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley for another crime. Neither Wheeler nor prosecutors knew what he was in prison for or how long he would be there.

Relatives of Paul and Cowart, a computer programmer at Harvard when he was killed, could not be reached for comment .

Yesterday's acquittal follows a Suffolk jury's verdict in May that acquitted Ablode Ahiahornu of the 2002 killing Kendrick Wilcox, 20, of Hyde Park. The month before, another Suffolk jury acquitted Curtis Jiles, 34, of Mattapan and Jemald Allen, 28, of Dorchester of charges they fatally shot William Saladin in Dorchester in 2004.

Shortly before that, a Suffolk jury acquitted Marquis Browder, 17, of Dorchester of charges he murdered Giresse Diansweki, 18, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, in 2005.

On April 2, another Suffolk jury acquitted Issac Lane, 29, of Fitchburg of the 2005 slaying of Terrence Felton, 19, who was fatally shot in Mattapan as he rode a bicycle home. Also acquitted were Charles Ussery, 19, who was charged with being an accessory before the fact, and Derrick Barnes, 21, who was charged with being an accessory after the fact.